Stings have caused deaths in more than 70% of people with anaphylaxis, most of who did not know they had the condition
Keen gardener Steve Fletcher could be killed by just one wasp sting.
The 62 year old, from Jesmond, suffered from a massive allergic reaction when he was stung on the arm after stepping on a wasp nest while working in his garden.
He said: “At first I didn’t think anything of it. It hurt as much as you would expect it to. I had quite a big red welt on my arm but nothing more.
“It didn’t once cross my mind that I was in any difficulty until I noticed that the same red welts started to appear on my other arm, which hadn’t been stung at all. I was quite worried when I realised the reaction was spreading and my breathing was becoming shallower – it was only then that I felt in danger.
“I was alone and knew I needed to get to help fast. Fearing I was about to collapse, I managed to reach the road and decided to head to a friend’s house who lived no more than 200 yards away.
“As I walked up the road I started to feel more and more breathless, my breathing was getting shallower with every step, and despite the short distance, by the time I reached my friend’s house I could barely stand up and feared I was about to collapse.”
After receiving antihistamines from his friend Steve went to a clinic for further treatment and by time he arrived, the reaction had also spread to his torso.
Steve was then prescribed life-saving adrenaline pens to be used if he was stung again.
In the past 10 years the UK has had seven times the amount of allergy hospitalisations and doctors aren’t sure what is causing the alarming increase.
To spread the word about anaphylaxis, the Bee Resistant campaign was launched to increase awareness about the dangers of venom anaphylaxis from wasp stings and treatment options that are available.
Professor Steve O’Hickey, a specialist allergy consultant, said: “The exact reason for this growing allergy epidemic is unclear.
“Seasonal allergies, especially insect allergies, are becoming increasingly common and as the latter end of the summer approaches we do receive an increase in incidents of anaphylaxis as a result of wasp stings.”
Steve Fletcher added: “What is striking about everyone I meet at the clinic is that none of us realised we might be at risk of anaphylaxis, which is quite a worrying fact.
“Had my friend who helped me after the incident not insisted on taking me to see my GP, my next reaction may have been more severe. I would encourage anyone concerned, or who has had a bad reaction to take note of my story and the experiences of others.“